Saturday 20 January 2018

Woman saw mother and fiance beat father to death, court told

Natasha Reid

A COLD-CASE murder trial has been told that a woman witnessed her mother and her future husband beat her father to death 23 years ago before burying him in their back garden.

The prosecution told the Central Criminal Court yesterday that the alleged murderers later dug up the body, burned it over a number of days, and then smashed the charred bones and reburied them.

Vera McGrath (61) has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband, Bernard Brian McGrath (43), at their home in Lower Coole, Co Westmeath.

Colin Pinder (47), of Liverpool, England, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter on a date unknown between March 10 and April 18, 1987.

Mr Pinder had pleaded not guilty to murder on Monday, but was rearraigned at the start of the trial yesterday morning. His plea to manslaughter was not accepted.

Denis Vaughan Buckley, prosecuting, told the jury that the original investigation into the alleged murder was in 1993 but that there was a review of the cold case in 2007.

He explained that the prosecution's case would depend substantially on evidence to be given by the victim's daughter, Veronica Pinder, who was present at the alleged murder.

"She will summarise for you the events that took place," he said.

He explained why the date of her father's death wasn't known exactly. A garda spoke to Mr McGrath on March 10, 1987, but he was dead and buried in a shallow grave by April 18, the wedding day of his daughter and Mr Pinder.

"Veronica Pinder will tell you that she met Colin Pinder in England," said the prosecutor. "Mid-February 1987, they came to Ireland to marry."

He explained that Mrs McGrath borrowed a caravan for the younger couple to stay in. However, there were rows between Mr and Mrs McGrath and, on one occasion, Mrs McGrath joined the couple in the caravan while her husband visited a friend nearby.

"Vera McGrath expressed a wish that her husband was dead and encouraged Colin Pinder to become involved," the barrister told the court.

He said both couples then later walked back to the McGrath family home in Lower Coole for tea.

"There followed a sustained assault by both Vera McGrath and Colin Pinder," said Mr Vaughan Buckley, explaining that Mr McGrath was beaten to death. "They used a number of different weapons, ensuring he couldn't survive."


Veronica Pinder would describe who struck her father with which weapons, he said.

The new widow and the young couple stayed at the house that night and the victim's body was buried in the back garden, the court heard.

"The following day, at the request of her mother, Veronica assisted in the cleaning of blood and mucus off the house," he said. This was impossible to do so her mother told her to put tar on it, he added.

Mrs McGrath went to England shortly afterwards with her three young sons, Brian, Andrew and Edward. Her daughter and Mr Pinder remained in the house.

The family returned eight weeks later and the two defendants decided to dig up their victim's body, said the barrister.

"They burned the remains over two to three days and smashed up the charred bones and reburied them," he said. "There's no issue that the bones recovered were his."

The barrister said Andrew McGrath would give evidence of what his mother told him when he asked her what had happened to his father.

The court was told that in 1993 two gardai went to Yorkshire and interviewed Mr Pinder in a police station.

Searches were carried out in Ireland and Mr McGrath's remains were buried in Whitehall Cemetery in June 1998. They consisted of a half-bucket of human bones. These were exhumed on May 19, 2008.

Two more gardai returned to England later that year and interviewed Mr Pinder in his flat. He was arrested at Dublin airport in February of last year and charged with Mr McGrath's murder.

Mrs McGrath was arrested at her home three months later and also charged.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Irish Independent

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